2001 shaping up to be banner year.
Nestled aside big and beautiful Lake Nipissing, North Bay is the commercial hub to dozens of towns, villages and townships. The crossroads of the Trans-Canada Highway, Highway 11 and Highway 63 to Quebec, the thriving city connects movement in all directions.
To provide for an active population, the labour market is dominated by a diverse service economy. One in every four working individuals in North Bay is employed in retail trade while one in 10 jobs involves serving up food, beverages and accommodation to local and visiting consumers. Another one in 10 works in transportation and communication. Call centre establishments that are already boosting employment in the business services sector were joined last month by a 241 Pizza streamlined order-taking call centre, creating 110 new jobs.
Recently a $40-million expansion of Northgate Square Shopping Centre began, adding 20 new stores and 650 new jobs to the city. Work is continuing on a new Sears store, while a larger Wal-Mart has appeared. Further development at North Bay Mall added 50 jobs at a new Winners store, while a Value Village created 30 additional jobs.
The health, social services and education sectors of the local economy continue to generate employment for a significant 25 per cent of the employed labour force in North Bay. The addition of jobs in provincially funded medical call centres occurred over the past year providing emergency advice to northerners. As well, a new $136-million hospital will be constructed and is set to open in 2005 to bring labour market, health and economic benefits to the north.
Construction projects hum in and around the city. New and continuing work sites are creating job opportunities for numerous trades workers and helpers. City hall reports building activity is rising. Total values for 2000 were the highest in eight years at $48 million, while 2001 is shaping up to be a banner year as well. Construction begins on a $7.2-million aquatic centre at the YMCA, while building of a $6-million new air terminal structure continues. Nipissing University is constructing a $12.2-million academic wing due to an expectation of increased demand for higher education. Canadore College has commenced construction of a $12-million aerospace facility located at the North Bay Airport. The site will be used for skills training to meet the demand for workers in the aerospace industry.
Labour Force estimates published by Statistics Canada for 'small areas' produce annual average labour market data for North Bay combined with East Ferris and North Himsworth. Recent numbers confirm improving labour market conditions for the local area. The employment rate in 2000 rose to an 11-year high of 57.4 per cent, while the unemployment rate dropped to 7.3 per cent last year, also the lowest annual average since 1990.
The local working age population has increased to meet the needs of local employer demand, adding 2,600 new jobs to the economy between 1987 and 2000.
The working age population has increased by 3,700 in the same period of time. There are signs however that population increases are not entirely flowing into the labour supply. An increase in the 'not-in-the-labour-force' numbers - 2,000 people for that time - is partly attributed to older workers commencing retirement on the shores of local lakes and rivers.
Human Resources Development Canada corporate data provides additional evidence of strengthening conditions in the local labour market. The number of employment insurance claimants in North Bay and area has been on a nine-year downswing. In February 2001 a total of 2,507 ready, willing and able job seekers compares favourably to 4,994 the same month in 1992.
Job growth in the service sector is forecast to continue to match the needs of new projects such as the $25-million jail and facility scheduled to start construction next year.
Judy Jibb is an information analyst for Human Resources Development Canada in North Bay.